Egyptian Hip Hop Interview: “Up there with the big dogs.”

22.07.09, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

EGYPTIAN HIP HOP are impossible to interview. We’re sat in front of the biggest plate of sausage and mash in a café in Spitalfields, which has taken them a good 15 minutes to order. Apparently the ordering process is overcomplicated. And the pictures on the walls aren’t hung straight. Sausages divvied up, pictures straightened, this would normally be the point when things settle down. They don’t. Instead it’s a chaotic onslaught of rambling chat, hanging questions, gentle jibes and noisy exclamations. “Is this a milkshake? It just looks like big milk.” “How do you get the mash?” “Oh Louis, you’re so incapable.” “If I lean over, it’s going to go everywhere.” “What are they? Onion crisps? Pass them over.” “I think I’m having the most British meal I’ve ever had.” Why are we here again? Oh yes, because EGYPTIAN HIP HOP, who’ll be playing before GOLD PANDA at a 50 Bones gig later, aren’t just four hungry Mancunian 17-year-olds. They’re also one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now.

Course they’re unsigned, have only played a handful of gigs and there’s just the obligatory two songs on their myspace but none of that matters because ‘Rad Pit’ (download it above) is seriously something else. Melodic grunge? Lush scuzzy pop? Housey math rock? Whatever, it’s hot-damn beautiful and brings the Manchester tradition of uplifting sounds with darker undertones bang up to date. Funnily enough, THE SMITHS legend Johnny Marr taught Nick Delap (guitar/bass) a thing or two on the guitar: “And he gave me some shoes and old guitar pedals. He thought I was poor because I wore scruffy clothes.” “He’s like the Robin Hood of the indie world,” says Alex Pierce aka Leveret (drums/keyboard/backing vocals).

When I mention the Manchester happy/sad thing the hubbub pauses for a moment. “We like to make music that is atonal,” says Alexander Hewett (vocals/keyboard/bass). “It’s not major or minor, it’s in the middle. So people can make their own decision about whether it’s a sad song or a happy song.” And that’s the intriguing thing about Egyptian Hip Hop, amidst the hyperactive naivety is an incredibly mature musical sensibility. It comes from already having been around a bit, despite their young years. Both Alexander and Nick were in 20 Jazz Funk Greats favourites Copycats, and Leveret also makes electronic folky sounds under his own name. Their influences aren’t exactly what you’d expect either: vocal ensemble composer MEREDITH MONK, Danny Elfman’s 80s art-pop group OINGO BOINGO and glitchy Warp hero CLARK all get the big thumbs up. “And Limp Bizkit,” jokes Louis Stevenson Miller (guitar/bass/backing vocals). At least I think it was a joke.

At the gig later they play a self-conscious yet thrilling set, bookended by ‘Rad Pit’ and the cascading ‘Heavenly’. In-between there’s a gorgeous instrumental and some other punkier stuff. Some of it is more fully formed than others but it all bristles with restless promise. It’s not hard to see why the blogs are aflutter. Even The Independent has taken note, including them on a playlist with SONIC YOUTH, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and BLUR. “And it was my favourite Blur song,” exclaims Louis. “Up there with the big dogs.” With Steve Lamacq having given them airplay, an appearance on a Channel 4 mini-doc coming up and more recording time booked in, things are looking good. So what do they do when they’re not doing Egyptian Hip Hop? “Ummm. Skateboard.” And with that they’re off to climb scaffolding and playfight for the camera.

Egyptian Hip Hop play the Deaf Institute in Manchester on July 31st and a gig with Django Django in London on August 22nd. Check their myspace for details and watch this space for releases.

Egyptian Hip Hop’s myspace

Like big otherworldly melodies? Check out our interview with Katie Stelmanis.